Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed legislation on June 16 that will end the $300 enhanced unemployment payments from the federal government at the end of next month, in exchange for increasing the maximum state unemployment benefit starting next year.
The new law to raise the state’s unemployment benefit goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
Republicans and business groups had agreed to support a $28 increase to the weekly state unemployment check amount—to a maximum of $275 per week—only if the governor agreed to halt Louisiana’s involvement with the $300 federal payments by July 31, which is weeks earlier than the original Sept. 6 cutoff date.
Some Republicans have blamed the federal unemployment boost for keeping workers on the sidelines, resulting in a wealth of open jobs but no workers to fill them.
The governor’s signature, announced without comment in a batch of bill signings, makes him one of the first Democrats to end the $300 federal bump before the program expires. At least half of the U.S. states, all led by Republicans, have taken similar steps.
Edwards said last week that he was already considering ending the program in August. He said the July 31 termination “doesn’t seem like a bad compromise.”
The weekly boost to state unemployment benefits was part of the third Trump-era pandemic stimulus package. Even under Trump, some Republicans argued that the supplement, which was $600 per week at the time, would result in some people staying out of the workforce because they would earn more money by not taking a job.
All of the Republican-led states involved are terminating the payments between June 12 and July 13. Each argued that terminating the program is necessary because the $300 weekly checks are causing people to turn down good jobs, leaving businesses struggling to maintain operations.
President Joe Biden said on June 4 that the $300 federal unemployment checks should terminate in line with the program’s scheduled expiry.
Biden made the remarks while commenting on the Labor Department’s closely watched employment report, which showed U.S. private employers added a modest 559,000 jobs in May—an improvement from April’s sluggish gains, but still evidence that many companies are struggling to find enough workers to fill their employment vacancies.
“The temporary boost in unemployment benefits … helped people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are still maybe in the process of getting vaccinated, but it’s going to expire in 90 days,” Biden said. “That makes sense.”
Tom Ozimek and The Associated Press contributed to this report.